theraineysisters knitting and so much more

June 8, 2008

From Susan — Is This a Minnesota Thing?

Filed under: Back Story — lv2knit @ 12:44 pm

I am talking about the obligatory “Graduation Open House” aka “High School Graduate Fundraising Event.”  In Minnesota, everyone has to host these events for the new graduate.  To not do so means that a) you do not love your little darling and b) your child will start out broke.

There are only so many weekends available, so scheduling your event is tricky (ours is next weekend).  This often means trekking from one open house (OH) to another to pay off congratulate the honoree.  The typical OH consists of tables and chairs set up outside or — in case of rain — in the garage.  Food is simple and served buffet style.

I have been dreading looking forward to this fiasco celebration for 13 years — since Laura started her first day of kindergarten.  I am not one for hosting large parties and avoid entertaining whenever possible. 

So, last weekend I attended my first in a series of open houses and had an epiphany.  The hosts are really good friends of ours and always throw great parties, so I knew it would be nice.  It was nice and not overly lavish — yay!  But here is what Gina said that turned on the light bulb for me: “We decided to have the party indoors.”  I should have realized this as I was standing in her kitchen at the time, but I am a little slow on the uptake.

I realized that what I had been dreading all these years was trying to put on an outdoor party: Our garage is crap, our deck unfinished; what about renting tables and chairs and tents and serving warmers, the weather, etc. etc.  How do you keep the hot food hot, the cold food cold….OMG!  Now that we have decided to have the party inside, it is a much more attainable goal.  I also decided to keep everything very simple and not do any of the cooking: all the food is being prepared elsewhere. 

I think I can do this now!  Laura will feel loved, and Laura will not be broke — though of course, I will be!

PS from Susan: I tried to drop a subtle hint to Laura about “eloping” (i.e., give her the $$ that I would have spent, but not host the gig), but then ALL the criteria would not be met: I would be broke, Laura would not be broke, but Laura would not feel loved.  So, the gig goes on!

PS2: Our school also hosted an all-night party the night of graduation.  It cost $175 — my daughter did not want to attend, so we got off the hook there, though I heard it was fun.  She wanted to spend the evening with friends from a neighboring school who would not be able to attend.


  1. One of the happiest days of our lives was the day AFTER the last high school OH. I’m not sure it is just a MN thing, but it sure seems to be taken to the next level here. The good news is that college graduation seems to demand only a simple dinner out with family and a couple of close friends. So much simpler and more fun, instead of stressful, no matter how happy the occasion was. Good luck next week!

    Comment by twinsetellen — June 8, 2008 @ 1:50 pm

  2. LOL. Another thing about graduation parties is the SHRINE!!! The picture, and all the awards , news clip, etc. the child has amassed over the years. All that is missing is the candles. Anyway this is what I have observed at these party. I’ve done a couple of these myself, held mostly in the house and they could wander off to the outdoors . Anyway you will be an expert when it is done.

    Comment by Bonnie — June 8, 2008 @ 1:55 pm

  3. I hate to say this, but it may really be just a Minnesota thing. I’ve lived in Texas, Alabama and Maryland and have never attended such a shin-dig.
    Maybe you should have moved last year?
    Glad you’ve got it figured out. This too shall pass….

    Comment by Teresa — June 8, 2008 @ 3:37 pm

  4. This is one American custom I did not buy into 😉 The litigator up the road had a really fancy one, complete with a couple of guys in suits to valet park!

    Comment by Marina — June 8, 2008 @ 3:51 pm

  5. It’s a ritual rite of passage in Michigan too. My sister had a HUGE one in Texas for her daughter. That may have been a Michigan transplant thing but I’m not so sure as plenty of people had parties in Houston and they were born and bred there. We did ours indoors and did lavash roll up sandwiches with fresh fruit trays, fresh veggie and dessert trays for my daughter. It was 90 degrees and so humid for Sara’s. For my son, we got a discount and did ribs/chicken/potatoes and I made the salads. I had seating in and out for both but most chose to stay in for the A/C.

    Anything you can do to make your life easier so you can enjoy it, do so. Have fun and keep the hankie near by. It isn’t every day you get to mark such a huge milestone.

    Comment by rudee — June 8, 2008 @ 4:03 pm

  6. My husband calls the open house invitations “invoices”! We had decided several years ago that when our kids graduate we will host the party indoors. Our garage is just that, a garage. I wouldn’t have friends over for dinner and make them eat in my garage, so why would I do that for a festive event for my child? We have talked to the kids about these parties, and for what you spend on the food, decorations, cake, rentals, etc. our kids told us to just give them the money, then they can go celebrate at their friends homes. Sounds good to us, but we’ll see what happens in three years.

    Comment by jaci — June 8, 2008 @ 4:53 pm

  7. It is a Minnesota thing. I’ve already avoided one. Our first daughter graduated last year and absolutely didn’t want a party. She wanted the family to go to Chicago for Memorial weekend. We had a good time and no work! I like to entertain, so it wouldn’t be stressful for me, but she didn’t want the attention.

    Just remember, nobody is looking under the furniture or in the closets. Just enjoy the people and her! (Our garage is disgusting.)

    Comment by Maria — June 8, 2008 @ 5:04 pm

  8. Will you guys please post a few more entries so I don’t keep looking at Lyra–I only have so much willpower ya know! 😉

    Comment by BarbOutsideBoston — June 8, 2008 @ 5:50 pm

  9. I have not run across the OH tradition in CA, UT, or WA.

    In CA, back when the Earth was cooling, a graduating class had an optional all-night party at a country club or similar venue.
    The happy grads may have sent out graduation announcements, ie., gift solicitations, to interested relatives and friends.

    Comment by Creeksideknitter — June 8, 2008 @ 6:20 pm

  10. Maybe it’s a Midwestern thing. Everyone did them when I graduated from a blue collar Michigan high school in 1980 and my niece and nephew had them a few years ago (they graduated from high school in a Michigan college town. I think the people who redecorate and paint their houses and have their driveways resurfaced are taking things a bit too far, but it does seem natural to me to have these parties. When I was in high school, the idea was to invite all your friends, plus relatives, but not the parents of friends. There was no idea that people other than close family would give you graduation money. What will they think of next? A high school graduation registry where you can buy them everything they need to decorate their dorm rooms?

    I have no idea what we will do when our kids graduate. We have a small, crappy garage, and a small backyard on a hill. I’m guessing we’ll have to get the smell of dog out of the carpet before then, huh?

    Comment by Rox — June 8, 2008 @ 7:36 pm

  11. Susan- I would have moved.

    I’ve never heard of this- next year my baby will be graduating High School (not doing a victory lap like her brother) and I’m going to buy her something nice and pay for a dinner.

    Let’s face it, we’ve been paying since she was born.

    Comment by Lorraine — June 8, 2008 @ 7:46 pm

  12. I grew up in Canada but graduated from highschool in Michigan where the Open House was standard. My parents of course did not get it, so I did not get one but I had a wonderful bestfriend who let me share her party. Lots of trekking around from party to party but it was lots of fun!

    Comment by Nicole — June 8, 2008 @ 8:24 pm

  13. Fortunately, it’s not a tradition in DC. My daughter just wanted to be taken out for a nice dinner. We got off easy.

    Comment by surly — June 8, 2008 @ 9:03 pm

  14. Graduation open houses must be a Midwest thing. That isn’t done here in the Dallas-Ft. Worth area. Some parents here do have graduation parties for their children, but only close family and friends are invited, and money for the graduate is not expected. I did attend a Robbinsdale (Minnesota) High School graduation about 10 years ago, and a small party (indoors) afterward at the graduate’s parents’ home, but I never was aware that money for the graduate was expected.

    In our part of North Central Texas, Project Graduation all-night parties are the norm on graduation night. These parties are sponsored by the school, held either at the school or some other nearby large venue, and are intended to keep the graduates safe, alcohol-free, and alive after graduation. No drinking is allowed, and if someone leaves the party, they may not re-enter. The kids have worked all Senior year long with fundraisers, and the parents have donated money (like $100 or more per family), to foot the bill for the party, which is well-chaperoned by teachers and parents. Local businesses have donated food and prizes, and the party usually includes dancing and casino night activities. The kids earn fake money playing the casino games, then an auction is held, and the kids use their casino winnings to bid on the really cool prizes. Project Graduation is very popular with the kids in our area, and thus with the parents, thank goodness.

    Mary G. in Texas

    Comment by Katie's Granny — June 8, 2008 @ 9:05 pm

  15. Susan – when I saw you at Gina’s kitchen last weekend, that was my second Open House that day! I went to one last night for 2 stepbrothers (so that’s equivalent to 2 OHs). Next weekend, there are 2 more. I think it’s payback time when my son graduates in 3 years’ time!! LOL!

    Comment by Christine — June 8, 2008 @ 11:50 pm

  16. I feel your pain. My daughter too will be graduating from a local high school. Her friends have had parties already and I’ve been procrastinating. I haven’t been able to decide on a date, I just want to hide in my yarn.
    This is my second child so I know how to do this. I just can’t deal with the pressure and the feeling there are those who will be judging, family especially. I know its for her and not me, so I need to simplfy my objectives and get through this. Hey I heard in Hutchenson MN they are the rage, one had 300 people coming. What are they going to do for the wedding?
    P.S. I love your blog, I’m Auntie Ann’s friend

    Comment by Nancy K. in S Mpls — June 9, 2008 @ 12:07 am

  17. We “do” the graduation party thing here in western New York, also. Every year I dread having to go from party to party “paying off” the graduates. We had a party for both my older son and daughter and decided to just give the money to our third son. No one even noticed he graduated, gave him a card or a well-wishing. I was quite stunned that he was so “unloved” and have felt a slight twinge of guilt ever since. I think graduation parties have gone the way of wedding receptions. Too much and way too expensive!!!! I hope our society changes soon!

    Comment by Debi B — June 9, 2008 @ 6:23 am

  18. It must be a “newer” midwest thing. It certainly was not the case when either my husband (1966) or I (1968) graduated from High School. I don’t even remember it from younger cousins. I would be surprised if the history of such parties was older than 20 years.

    Unfortunately, I see it as a trend that is spreading. I have seen some of the military families where I have been stationed do this, but it mostly about socializing and very little about money (other rules and impressions apply). Certainly as mine complete their first round of education in the German system, this is not done (and I am not about to start a new trend).

    I certainly agree; high school graduations, wedding receptions, shall we add confirmations and Bat/Bar Mitzvahs? have turned into huge expensive affairs out of proportion.


    Comment by Holly — June 9, 2008 @ 8:42 am

  19. It was also not a practice in IL when I graduated (similar to Holly and her husband . . . I was another 1966). And I haven’t encountered it in WA or MA (western), when I lived in those locations.

    I first ran into this here in CO. I don’t *think* I’ve been to more than one of these, and because I didn’t understand it I didn’t participate appropriately, which I feel okay about. I also have not sent cash in response to graduation announcements, which probably makes me an oddity. But I just don’t.

    For the friends who celebrate as we do, I’ve given gifts that I thought were specifically appropriate to the person and the accomplishment. We gave one young man a fencing helmet.

    We also dodged the practice for my own daughter. We did gather some out-of-town family to attend graduation and celebrate together.

    Which proves that I am extremely out of step, socially, with my environment.

    Comment by Deborah Robson — June 9, 2008 @ 8:51 am

  20. I come from a MN family of 8 kids. When my older sister and I graduated we were told “no OH” by our parents. Fine with me.

    I managed to avoid OHs until I was in my late 30s. Never having had one, and having avoided them for so long, I had no idea what was required. When I received a thank you note saying “Thank you for the gift of money” I was mortified! I had not included money in my card. Ouch! I still feel embarrassed over this.

    Comment by mary — June 9, 2008 @ 1:29 pm

  21. My favorite comment is from Jaci. “My husband calls the open house invitations “invoices”! That just really sums it up. I just got an “invoice” from an old friend whom I haven’t seen in years and who lives 3 hours away. I’ve never met her son who is graduating. Definitely feels like an invoice.
    I’m from Connecticut and was so bummed when I moved here and saw what would be expected of me when my children graduated high school. When we graduated we got a piece of luggage. 🙂 Connecticut also doesn’t believe in baby or bridal showers where you play games. Those east coasters, they’re so civil.

    Comment by Peggy — June 9, 2008 @ 5:50 pm

  22. I’m in Minnesota also. We got invited to a neighbor’s party. I have never met the graduate, and my husband has spoken to him once or twice. I speak to the mother when we meet on the road–I am walking, she is taking the garbage can out. The two husband’s have spoken a few times about another “problem” neighbor. Yes, it feels like an invoice, especially since we couldn’t even go to eat, as we had a prior engagement.

    Comment by knitchick — June 9, 2008 @ 7:21 pm

  23. I have never even heard of one of those parties… I grew up in California. We did have a grad-nite (the all night party) but ours only cost $75 and you could get a waiver on the fee if you thought it would put undue financial stress on your family for you to attend.

    Comment by Jaclyn Bailey — June 9, 2008 @ 8:14 pm

  24. We had our party for our son (complete with shrine) this weekend. Most folks here do it the same weekend as graduation, so parents of grads don’t tend to have to party hop (much) because you’re busy hosting. People who feel invoiced shouldn’t come — there’s usually enough folks (friends and relatives, not acquaintances) glad to celebrate with you that anyone who gives it a miss isn’t missed.

    However our school party tickets only cost $20. Instead a group of parents spend all year raising money to throw the party at that price.

    Comment by Pam — June 10, 2008 @ 2:43 am

  25. Let’s look on the “bright side”, MN people.

    Graduation OH’s are the “opportunity” we all have to refinish the basement, paint the house, put op those non-clogging gutters, get new shrubs out front, buy new living room furniture, get new towels for the bathroom and if you really want to go all out, update the furnace and air conditioner units! The shrine gives us the chance to go through 17 years of pictures that we’ve been meaning to put into albums.

    Susan, you are sooooooooooo lucky!

    Just a friendly suggestion. Find someone in your life who doesn’t want to meet and greet people,doesn’t know people who you know and who likes to stay in the background. Ask them to be “in charge” of the kitchen and update the food on the table. This will give you a chance to visit with all those people who have come to “celebrate’ this momentous occasion and you won’t find yourself saying at the end of the party “Gee, I didn’t get a chance to talk with ______ because I was busy in the kitchen!”

    Have a wonderful time.

    Comment by rosanne — June 10, 2008 @ 3:28 pm

  26. This has been such a fascinating read! I, too, am from California and we have the Grad Night at Disneyland and such, but no open houses. With the prevalence of TV, internet and other mass media, we often forget that regional differences still exist and I say Amen to that!

    Comment by kendyl young — June 10, 2008 @ 4:48 pm

  27. Just try to go with the flow and enjoy. Before you know it she will be all grown up and on her own. She will always remember these last days before college and real world. I do feel your pain especially money wise for these events and with those 4 years of college coming up. It passes quickly …but then you will paying for weddings like me this summer.  Of course then you will be ready to retire and still have no extra money LOL!

    Comment by katomliz — June 11, 2008 @ 6:49 am

  28. Love your blog… delurking to say…yikes! I remember when high school graduation was THE biggest thing in my life and I wouldn’t listen when my mom said it was really no big deal. I’ll have to go through that with my little girl one day too… well, she’s two and I’m planning a POTTY PARTY for her – no gifts please – so am I setting a precedent for future parties? (-; This one was a bribe for the whole finished-with-diapers thing. I’m the opposite from you when it comes to summer parties – I prefer outdoor ones. While our backyard is unimpressive, it is much larger than our bungalow and holds more opportunity for kiddie pools or bocce ball. Last year we crammed about 30 people, including toddlers who need to toddle, inside the house for little one’s second birthday due to rain. That was crowded!

    Comment by ADA — June 11, 2008 @ 10:56 am

  29. I’m a MN transplant, and as our kids are young, it’s taken a while for it to dawn on us just how big a deal this is here. Our neighbor pulled up, washed and screened for debris all of his landscaping rock in preparation. I’d sooner have a root canal. When you see people feeling insecure about their whole lifestyle (the home they’ve been paying for that was absolutely nice enough to raise their precious kids in), I think it’s gone way over the top. Good luck!

    And, holy cow, $175 bucks? Booze is out, so what? Caviar and truffles?

    Comment by Smuddpie — June 11, 2008 @ 6:10 pm

  30. It is not a Canadian thing. I have never heard of this before. Bizarre. When I graduated we went to a fancy dress party/dance with our “dates” and our parents. Then we all went to various parties afterwards. No gifts, no money, no stress.

    Comment by easilyentangled — June 11, 2008 @ 6:58 pm

  31. I don’t remember this in Oregon where I grew up – or here in Arizona. We did take both of our kids out to dinner, but then things were a bit stacked, so I don’t remember things very clearly. (Maybe since I’m so old – ha, ha!) Let’s see, my graduation was the same week as my parents’ 25th anniversary party. Hum. I wasn’t at home for my siblings. For our daughter, we went out to dinner, but my son graduated 10 days before his sister got married, so he got the short end of the stick as well. I think we just had too much going on to consider a graduation party for anyone!

    Comment by Karen in AZ — June 12, 2008 @ 7:16 pm

  32. Wow! I graduated a couple years ago in WA, but people just had drop-in parties for family and friends–no money expected or required! It was great opportunity to meet the family behind the kid.

    Comment by Sarah — June 12, 2008 @ 9:05 pm

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